As we near the end of the month, new growth is beginning to show. We’ve had a mild winter here in northern England and recently a few warm early spring days. All of these conditions (despite the occasional hail storm) have added to the spurt of fresh green leaves. Tiny buds are also forming on the fruit trees as you can see with the morello cherry. The tree is fan-shaped, trained flat against the garden wall in between the quince and the damson plum.
However… (there is always a “however” in dealing with gardens) … because of the mild winter, slugs, snails and other undesirables have also thrived. I don’t like using chemicals, and try to use natural or environmentally friendly pest control methods. I’ve polished up the copper rings to ward off slimy creatures. Copper, a perfect conductor, apparently gives the critters a shock – kind of like an electric slug fence. This ring is protecting purple sage cuttings I made last year that have survived over winter.
As I look from my kitchen window, the rhubarb is almost ready to pick. It seemed like such a short time ago it was just beginning to show its first tentitive red stalks.
A few years ago, after losing endless battles with summer vegetables in this wet, snail infested corner of the world, I decided to switch to fruit, specifically fruit which grew easily in Britain – berries, berries and more berries. Yet, there are always reminders of those vegetable days – this early it is self seeded corn salad (lamb’s lettuce) sharing the bed with the gooseberries. I’ll let some of it run to seed (for future crops) and pick the remainder for a lovely early spring salad.
The gooseberries are just pushing out their new spring leaves on their long spiky branches and it won’t be long before the nascent buds form. This particular gooseberry was new last year, a small red dessert variety that made excellent jam.
The loganberries grow on long vines that grew from the base the previous year. The previous year’s vines, tied to an arch trellis, are just beginning to branch and the new shoots for next year’s crop are just breaking the soil.
Dried leaves and dead plants are being cleaned out of the herb garden – a small patch of land just outside the pantry door. It is a chaotically organised plot – plants stuck in when they were acquired, transplanted or spread to alter or fill in the picture. I like to think it has a beauty all its own, although it seems to be more bare brown earth at this time of year. The perennial herbs include chives, bay, various different types of thyme, rosemary (both upright and creeping), sages, marjoram, oreganos, lavender, fennel, winter savory, wild garlic, lovage, celery leaf and mints.
Cleaning up the herb garden also meant trimming the bay. When I first established this patch of land, I had a bay cutting, about six inches in height, with a good root system. I planted it next to the stone perimeter wall and now it is well over seven feet tall and needs radical trimming every spring, just as the flowering buds on the bush begin to form. This is when I stock up on my dried bay leaves for the pantry. Bay leaf is one of those herbs that is actually more fragrant, more potent once dried. I select the best of the leaves from the trimmed branches and dry them in a wide and shallow basket on the kitchen table, giving it a shake once a day so that the leaves are equally exposed to the air. When they begin to curl at the edges and lose a bit of their glossy color, they are dry enough to pack away in a glass container to use throughout the year.
I bring the garden into the kitchen with fruits and herbs, but just this past year, I actually managed to bring a bit of the kitchen to the garden. The old kitchen hearth excavated from the kitchen when we insulated and installed the reclaimed oak floor back in November (see my post Kitchen Archaeology) is now a path in front of the cage we created for the Autumn Bliss raspberries, allowing easy access for picking.
Our stone-built garden shed was created from the original Victorian outdoor toilet and coal store. Growing up one wall is the new blackberry vine, planted last year and hopefully ready for fruiting this year. We are great believers in recycling things, so the trellis is an old bit of fencing, like the ones used to create a raspberry cage you can see in the image above. But, mounted just above, is the salt glazed ceramic lion we purchased many years ago from the Errington Reay Pottery, located along Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland. It guards the fruit garden, although it really isn’t isn’t an effective slug deterrent and I’m sure looting squirrels and birds simply ignore its fierce gaze.
Tasks to be done:
- Continue cleanup of beds, including the dreaded weeding.
- Clip the grape vine back while still in its dormant stage. I know I’m late in doing this!
- Rotate and aerate the compost (keeping a lookout for burrowing creatures).
- Harvest the rhubarb!
So, what’s happening in your edible garden?
A chronological listing of my Around My Edible Garden blog posts will be listed separate page under Diaries in the Menu bar.